It’s a tale as old as time, but still so true to our hearts. Normally, I don’t write from a personal perspective, but I cannot resist with this film. Beauty and the Beast was MY movie growing up. In a family of five children, living just three and half hours away from Walt Disney World, we lived and breathed Disney. When Chip Chick was invited to the IMAX screening of Beauty and the Beast in New York City, I may or may not have squealed with delight at my desk. Nonetheless, as a film critic, I wanted to go into the screening with a keen and unbiased eye. Needless to say, Disney did not disappoint!
Every fan will ask the same question: Does the live action film do the animated film justice? Well, yes. When the initial trailers were released, it wasn’t long before fans created side-by-side comparisons. Those same fans will find that the rest of the film will keep that tune. Theater-goers will find themselves singing every song and swaying with the ultimate dance scene that can only be rivaled by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. There are so many scenes that match word-for-word and shot-for-shot. The opening song, Belle (Little Town), has an extremely uncanny resemblance to it’s predecessor and this is no coincidence. Director Bill Condon was under extreme pressure to please fans and aligning the beloved intro song with the original animation eases film-watchers into the live action. Although Emma Watson is no songstress, she held her own in character and spirit.
Condon still took some liberties that were not incorporated in the original film. A focus on Belle’s past, primarily what happened to her mother, which Disney has all too often left out of so many beloved films: Snow White, Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Aladdin, etc. This explanation, although very touching, was not entirely necessary. It did help establish a mutual feeling and relationship between Belle and the Beast. And, speaking of Beast, he has a song of his own! Incredibly sweet, yet still masculine, Dan Stevens managed to shine through all that hair and capture so many beastly moments. Unfortunately, he’s not our favorite character.
Amidst so much controversy lies our most beloved character, Josh Gad’s LeFou. Naysayers be damned, LeFou was witty, timely and made us love him more than any other actor on the screen. His pure adoration for Luke Evans’ Gaston was so true and tender-hearted that almost all can agree that they’ve been in his position before. And, for the record, anyone who’s seen the original animated film can definitely see that LeFou always had the hots for Gaston. It just didn’t have to be said back in the day. We knew and just wanted LeFou to decide when he was ready to tell the world. Excellent choice in direction!
With such an incredible cast, it’s hard to tear your eyes away and look at the scenery. The animated film managed to do just that in 1991. Nominated for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards in 1992, Beauty and the Beast changed the game for animated films and the Oscars as a whole. After losing to Silence of the Lambs, it ushered a new age where animated films did not have to compete against their live action counterparts by establishing a new category, Best Animated Feature. Now, we can’t say that this year’s Beauty and the Beast will win any Academy Awards, but at the very least we wager that the film will get some nominations for the pure, absolutely stunning aesthetic. Every scene, every moment is an exquisite portrait or landscape with luxurious hues that would make any moviegoer feel like a royal. From the countryside to the epic castle, the amount of detail in every aspect of the film is what will leave fans agape. Warning: Fans will experience random jaw-dropping moments.
One tech feature that must be credited for the exemplary filmmaking of 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is IMAX. Beauty and the Beast was specially formatted and presented in an expanded 1.9:1 aspect ratio that displays detail like no other Disney film before it. Compared to standard digital theaters, fans at IMAX theaters will be blessed with 26% more of the film. That’s more tales, that’s more tunes, that’s more rhymes, that’s more songs. Hands down a huge game changer. With more songs, bigger characters and stunning detail, the IMAX experience should be the only way to enjoy this film.
From one Belle to another (or to LeFou), I highly recommend and insist that all watch Beauty and the Beast in theaters this Friday, March 17th.